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Analogy to a Blue Flame

Andrea Taylor Analogy to a Blue Flame

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Malaspina Printmakers is pleased to present new experimental video and print works by Andrea Taylor. Referencing late nineteenth century photographic depictions of movement—such as the motion studies of Eadweard Muybridge and the serpentine dance of the Lumière brothers—the works focus on light, form, sensation, and temporality to explore our collective memory of images. The exhibition consists of a light box, prop, video, film negatives, six photolithography prints, and eight cyanotype prints. The title of the exhibition references the theory that the photographic image is not an index, representation, document, or copy, rather it is a similarity, parallel, likeness, or resemblance. Containing layered iterations, reconstructions, abstractions, and figurations of the past, this exhibition appears through a lens of nuanced nostalgia, not in the feeling of a romanticized longing, but in the sense of playing with the familiar to create something new. Memories are never fixed—they are always moving.

The Lumière brothers’ serpentine dance film was a remake of the original dance performed by Loïe Fuller, who accidentally discovered the effect of coloured stage lights on her moving skirt. The brothers hired a dancer and had the film technicolored to imitate the live effect. Taylor’s projected video Analogy to a Blue Flame was made from over 800 screen capture studies that she took while watching clips of the serpentine dance on her smartphone’s YouTube app. One of these images was printed and photocopied. The figure of the dancer was cut out in order to create a sort of viewfinder. The viewfinder cutout was taped to the screen of her laptop, and then the film was played on her laptop upside down. She recorded her laptop screen using her iPhone over 100 times in order to get the version that is streaming from Vimeo, looped, and projected in the gallery. Eight of the 800 screen captures were taken and then used to make negatives for handmade cyanotypes, which is a late-nineteenth century photographic technology. The cyanotypes are each painted with small amounts of acrylic paint and pencil crayon. A light box drawing of the dancer and a collection of negatives used to create the cyanotypes are exhibited alongside the video.

Taylor’s cutout frames her own perspective of this nineteenth century figure, and the edge of the cutout also mediates our observation of the dance. This window limits our recognition of the source—the occasional glimpse of the dancer’s feet is the only hint as her head remains invisible. There is just enough information to reveal moments of the historical performance. Played upside down, the dance is re-performed on the ceiling. By abstracting the dance 120 years into the future, Taylor allows the viewer to engage in an analogy of the dance that is uncanny.

Contrasting the dance pieces are black and white photolithography diptychs. The source images are from Eadweard Muybridge’s sitting down series, in which he photographed himself holding, sitting on, or standing near a chair. The figure appears strong and considered, but also slightly unkempt with messy hair and a scruffy beard. The images seem mechanical, clinical, and similar in format to his other motion studies, but this series was not presented in the order they were shot. Perhaps he edited them in an effort to create an engagement with his work that was more artistic than scientific, a self-portraiture strategy exploring the vulnerability and power of his own embodied experience. Taylor used India ink to paint the figures onto sheets of Mylar, which were then scanned to make photolithography positives for printing. Each of the six prints contains a pair of images, one as a positive and the other as a negative. The vertical format allows the viewer to interact with the work in a bodily way. The marbling style of the paint creates an x-ray like effect, highlighting the fragility and mortality of the body. A chair that resembles the one in the prints is covered with black drapery, placing the object in the photo into real space, yet masking it like the veiling of a ghost.

Andrea Taylor’s multimedia work in this exhibition utilizes an exhausting amount of processes, phases, and layers. Her source images are from the early ages of photography and film, a time when much fewer images existed. She takes old photos, turns them into new photos, and then turns them back into old photos again, in order to revisit their origins through the mediation of the accumulated present. The figures in her work are like time travellers embarking on a reproductive journey. They are no longer objective documents that represent the past. They become markings of the artist’s own body that are then presented to interact with the bodies and minds of the audience. Analogy to a Blue Flame is an example of art that has the potential to engage with the viewer in an extra-verbal way, questioning our belief in photographs as evidence of what or who has been, and attempting to elicit one’s own view of the figures that make up our world.

Curated by Justin Muir

Andrea Taylor received an MFA in Visual Art from Vermont College of Fine Arts in 2014. In 2015, she completed a month long collaborative residency, artist talk and exhibition with Margery Theroux at Miranda Arts Project Space, in Port Chester, NY. In 2011, she accepted an invitation to make prints with master printer Chris Dunnett at Robert Blackburn Printmaking Workshop in New York, NY. Taylor teaches in Continuing Studies at Emily Carr University of Art and Design. Recent exhibitions include Port City Gallery in Portland, OR; Michael Bjornson Studio in Vancouver; DownStreet Art in North Adams, MA; Moving Art at 1000 Parker in Vancouver; and Portraits of Brief Encounters, a group show curated by Elliat Albrecht at ThisOpenSpace in Vancouver. She has a solo show upcoming at Back Gallery Project in Vancouver.